A Healthcare Volunteer Explains Why Her Work Matters


Much like the body, a hospital has to rely on many separate parts in order to run smoothly.

These separate parts can include both paid and unpaid positions. Last year, volunteers at Trillium Health Partners: Credit Valley Hospital location collectively contributed 115,790 hours of volunteer hours to the hospital!

In the past three years, Ellen Van Rensburg contributed approximately 216 hours to the hospital through her volunteer work.

The recent McMaster graduate worked for three hours on alternating Sundays in the Emergency Room.

Ellen gave TalentEgg a peek into her time as a volunteer at a hospital, what a typical shift might have looked like and why this experience isn’t just valuable to those wishing to pursue healthcare as a career:

Q. What made you decide to volunteer at the hospital?

A. I have always been interested in human health but it wasn’t until I started university that I began to seriously consider medicine as a career.

I decided to volunteer at the hospital to gain some perspective into the different career options in medicine and to see if I “fit” into a hospital environment. I volunteered at Credit Valley Hospital (new name: Trillium Health Partners: Credit Valley Hospital location) because it is where my family doctor is stationed and the hospital has an excellent reputation for their volunteer program.

Q. What did a typical volunteer shift look like for you?

A. During the first part of my shift, I would sign into the system which records our volunteer hours. I would then meet with the volunteers from the previous shift to discuss how their shift went and if there was anything that I should be aware of.

I would then work through the “back” part of the Emergency Room: stocking carts, replacing rubber glove boxes and moving wheelchairs.

After finishing in the back, I moved towards the “front” waiting area and assisted the triage nurses. In the waiting room I would direct incoming patients, bring visitors in to see family and answer any other inquiries. This helped lighten the load for the nurses, especially on busy days.

Q. Would you recommend this as a volunteer position?

A. I would certainly recommend this as a volunteer position.

Not only is there a lot to learn from being in a hospital setting but you really make an impact. Patients appreciate the volunteers at the hospital because we are trained to be courteous, helpful and to go out of our way to make their visit to the hospital as comfortable as possible.

In return, the patients make us feel very valued. Something that makes volunteering at Credit Valley Hospital so appealing to me was the freedom to volunteer in different departments of the hospital. After volunteering for some time in one department, volunteers can move to a different department for a new challenge.

Q. What sorts of things did you learn?

A. I learned a lot! From my work in the back I learned about the different kinds of equipment used most frequently in the Emergency Room and the different roles that nurses play in the Emergency Room. I also learned about the computer tracking system which is used to follow patients through their visit to the Emergency Room to reduce the huge amount of paperwork that an Emergency Room produces.

I saw how all sorts of different professionals (nurses, doctors, paramedics, police, administrators) work together to make the Emergency Room operate. And I also had a lot of time to reflect on the efficacy of our Emergency Room and to think about how things might be changed in the future for better patient care.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. Now that she has finished her time as a hospital volunteer, Ellen is off to Queen’s University to get her MD and PhD. She says that her decision to apply to medical school was definitely influenced by the time she spent volunteering.

“I felt really comfortable in the hospital and that feeling influenced my decision to go to medical school and will probably influence my decision on what to specialize in.”

Are you inspired by Ellen’s story? Get involved! Evidently, volunteering is a great way to get involved in your community, and gain valuable insight on a potential career path.  It’s a win-win scenario!

Learn more about jobs in healthcare in TalentEgg’s Healthcare Career Guide.